I remember reading about the Profiles in Courage Award many years ago. Caroline Kennedy explained her family chose her father's birthday to present the award, noting they wanted to honor him on the day he was born . . . never focusing on the day he died. I'm not certain why that made such an impression on me, but it did. I remind myself of that every May Day . . . it's the day my sister left her battered shell of a cancer ridden body.
Sometimes she is close to me. When it happens it really can feel like something sacred. The times are random and fleeting - once during a scary medical procedure . . . those times are burned on my brain. Tender mercies and all.
Someone I work with lost her sister to breast cancer. We've known each other for almost 17 years . . . we sort of share a bond we wish we didn't share, although there's an understanding there that feels really good. She sent me one of her brother's recent journal entries. With his (and her) permission I'm sharing today.
Miss you every day, Min ...
I have been shooting clay pigeons for the past 8 years now; nothing serious but enough that I am a better than average shooter. Each “round” of clays consists of 25 targets. Over the years I have shot numerous scores of 21-23, and probably a dozen 24’s, but I have never been able to get the elusive “25 straight” (one time I got all the way to 24 but missed the 25th one, UGH!!).
As a general rule I don’t shoot on Sunday, but yesterday the local club had a Race for Life shoot to raise money for breast cancer research and I decided to go. I have several shotguns—many of which are high dollar guns designed for target shooting—but for this shoot I pulled out my least expensive and most cherished shotgun; a Remington 870. On the surface there is nothing unique about this gun. It isn’t a 3 inch magnum and doesn’t have a vented rib; it is the low-end of the line for the 870 model. But this gun is special to me because I bought it with the money I earned while babysitting for Julie during the summer of 1981. I earned and saved $200 that summer in California and as soon as I got back home I purchased the 870 used from a pawn shop for $150. That gun has travelled hundreds of miles with me and shot more shells than I can count as I pursued pheasants, ducks, geese, rabbits, and anything else that needed to be pursued. During my mission Don took the gun duck hunting and put it away wet. When I came home and took it out of the case it was very rusty and had to be completely refinished—which cost me more than the price of a new 870. Since refinishing it 10 years ago I have maybe put 4 boxes of shells though it: it has pretty much been a safe queen. But on this day the queen would once again fill my hands with her well-worn and familiar wood, her gentle nudge push my shoulder with each pull of the trigger, and the aroma of fresh burnt powder fill my mind with pleasant memories of days gone by.
When I arrived at the gun club I bought two boxes of shells from the clubhouse. Now this is rather unusual because clubhouse shells are always more expensive than the shells I buy at the local sporting goods store or the reloads I assemble at my reloading bench; but these shells were special. Rather than the typical red color of a Federal shell, these shells were pink and came in a pink box with a pink ribbon in recognition of breast cancer awareness. Federal Cartridge donated several cases to the club just for this shoot with all proceeds going directly to the cause. I happily gave them $12 and took my pink shells to trap field #4.
I was assigned to start on post 4 and Dax on post 5. As we walked to our posts I smiled at Dax and said “This one’s for aunt Julie. Have fun.” As the targets flew I found myself getting anxious to do well, and dreading my first missed target with its accompanying shout of “loss” from the score keeper. To my delight Dax and I both went five-for five on the first station. As I moved to post 5 for the next series the pressure built: post 5 is every shooters nemesis and is notorious for sending a hard-right target that is legendary for its difficulty to hit. The first target was straight away left and I easily hit it. The next two went hard right and I smashed them so cleanly there was nothing but powder left as they vaporized in the air. The third one was straight out, and though I did hit it, it did not break well. It was then that I saw in my mind’s eye Julie smiling at me and saying “that was a close one” followed by her infectious laugh. The next target was another hard right, and I wasted no time smoking it. Moving over to post 1 I was in my element; this is where I like to shoot from, and I quickly dispatched all 5 targets. Post 2 was a repeat of post 1. Now I was on post 3. I had not missed yet and was facing my last five targets. I restlessly tried to calm my nerves and relax, but with each target the pressure became even greater. Now I was sitting 24/24 and down to my last target. I dropped the shell into the port, closed the action, took a deep breath, and shouldered the gun. I cleared my mind and focused on the trap house, trying desperately not to let the pressure of the situation get to me. It was then that I again saw Julie's smiling face as she said “thanks for the round, that was fun.” I called for the target, watched it fly out of the trap house, swung the barrel to it and pulled the trigger. I didn’t even have to look: I knew it was “dead” as soon as I said “pull.”
It was the perfect day and the perfect reason to shoot my first perfect round. Thanks Julie, that was fun.